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Preview: Saturday's Airtricity League fixtures

Updated: Saturday, 23 Mar 2013 10:10 | Comments

Luke Byrne has enjoyed a strong start to the season
Luke Byrne has enjoyed a strong start to the season

By Rob Wright

St Patrick’s Ath v Bohemians - POSTPONED

Sligo Rovers v Limerick

Anthony Elding

Champions Sligo Rovers will be looking to continue their perfect start to the season when Limerick visit the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

Rovers have been in ominous form so far this season, winning all three of their league games and they have already built up a four point lead over Shamrock Rovers and visitors Limerick.

Indeed it’s the first time Sligo have they’ve won their opening three league games since 1977, indicating just how much of a threat Ian Baraclough’s men are.

In Anthony Elding the Showgrounds side have found another real goal threat and the perfect replacement for Mark Quigley, who left for Tallaght in the summer. Elding already has five goals this season and with Kirean Djilali waiting in the wings, the Champions have plenty of attacking options.

Baraclough has been please with his side’s start to the season and said: "It has been a real solid start. Three goals in Dundalk and a very good performance, coupled with the result against Bray, made it a very good week for us. It’s what we’ve wished for in terms of beginning the season.

"If you look at each match, every win has been hard-fought and we’re not going to win every game with big scorelines. For me I’m delighted if we win 1-0 with a 96th minute goal as long as it’s a win.

"Every team in the division has their strengths and Limerick possess many that will become apparent as the season goes on. It‘s going to be a tough game but one that we’ll look forward to."

Rovers will again be without the injured trio of Danny North (knee), Danny Ventre (leg) and Joseph Ndo (hand) and Baraclough is unlikely to make many changes to the side that beat Dundalk last time out.

Limerick will come into the game in high spirits after claiming their first win at new home Thomond Park on Tuesday when they beat bottom side UCD 3-1.

Manager Stuart Taylor will have Axel Bossekota and Aaron Brown available again after the duo both picked up suspensions for being sent off in their 2-2 draw with Drogheda.

Bossekota must serve a further two game ban but that doesn’t come into effect until next week.

Taylor is expecting a tough task at the Showgrounds. "(Sligo) have a good balance to their team and quiet rightly they won the league last year and they will be favourites to win it again this year,” he said.

"It’s a home game for them and they have a fantastic pitch and our boys will enjoy going up there and passing the ball. It will be a good day out for our supporters as well. We are looking forward to it.”

Along with Bossekota and Brown, the visitors could welcome back Dom Foley, who is back in full training although Rory Gaffney (foot) and Dave O’Leary (knee) are sidelined.

Both teams go into the game unbeaten in the league, although with two draws, Limerick trail Sligo by four points.

That gap is likely to be extended on Saturday as Sligo look set to continue their 100% start to the season, and while the result may be closer than some expect, Baraclough’s men should take all three points.

Verdict: Sligo

UCD v Dundalk

Stephen Kenny

Every season since 2009 UCD have defied predictions of their demise, handily avoiding relegation and ensuring their place in the top flight for the next season but this year there is a real feeling that they could finally slip through the relegation trapdoor.

The Students have lost their opening three games, shipping eleven goals in the process and at this early stage already look as if they will struggle.

Suffering a 3-1 defeat against Limerick at Thomond Park last time out, Martin Russell’s men actually started that well but fell apart after conceding early on.

Russell set his side up to contain Limerick but too many individual errors put paid to that gameplan and the UCD manager will know that he will have to eliminate those mistakes if his side are to climb the table.

"Stephen Kenny has managed to build a stronger squad than Dundalk had last year and is an excellent manager, we know a couple of their lads in Andy Boyle and Keith Ward who both played for us. We need a big performance on Saturday night in order to come away with our first points of the season," Russell said.

The UCD boss will again be without the services of Dean Clarke (ankle) and Mick Leahy (knee), while Tomas Boyle (toe), Robbie Benson (hamstring) and James Kavanagh (knee) are all doubts.

Dundalk will be looking to bounce back from their midweek defeat against Sigo Rovers. An opening day draw with Shamrock Rovers and a win away to Shelbourne represent a good start for Stephen Kenny’s men and he’ll be hoping for another three points on Saturday.

Captain Stephen O’Donnell will again miss out after a calf injury ruled him out of Tuesday’s game.

Mark Rossiter, John Mountnay and Chris Shields all come back into the reckoning after missing the defeat to Sligo. Kenny looks set to shake things up and could reintroduce all three to the starting line-up after admitting that he was disappointed with Tuesday’s display.

Sligo won well in the end without having to play that well but they have got good players and that's why they're champions. Our performance was nowhere near the performance of Shamrock Rovers or Shelbourne,” Kenny said.

”UCD haven't had the best of starts but that doesn't matter. It’s going to be a tough game as UCD are usually quite good at home so we have to dust ourselves down and recover and make sure we are ready for them.”

Kenny may be talking up the challenge that UCD will represent but on current form his side should have more than enough to win and extend the Student’s poor start to the season.

Verdict: Dundalk

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